American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program SPECIAL UPDATE


House and Senate Appropriations Bills Take Shape

(7-17-98)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies

IN A NUTSHELL: Appropriations bills for science are being debated on the House and Senate floors. The National Science Foundation has become the target of several attempts to cut its budget, but other geoscience-related agencies are faring well and avoiding flak. In general, these agencies are receiving funding levels below the President's request for fiscal year 1999 but above the amounts they received for the current year. This update reports on NSF, EPA, NASA, USGS, and DOE. No new developments have occurred on Agriculture or Education since the June monthly update. That update is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/updat698.html along with a more detailed discussion of appropriations at http://www.agiweb.org/legis105/apprfy99.html.

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Congress has shifted into high gear with the fiscal year 1999 appropriations process. Both the House and Senate are pushing hard to get their appropriations bills passed before heading home for the month of August. Three of the 13 bills have been passed by both houses and now await a House-Senate conference to resolve differences. Three more have passed one house, and only two have yet to emerge from committee in either house. Although the bills have been contentious, most of the debate has focused on non-science programs and agencies. The exception has been the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is the target of several proposed amendments in the House to reduce its budget in order to pay for other programs. The VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies bill that includes NSF, NASA, and EPA is being debated on the House floor today, and the Coalition for National Science Funding (of which AGI is a member) is calling on scientists to contact their Member of Congress in support of NSF funding. The amendments are expected to come up for a vote on Tuesday, July 21st.

One amendment, to be offered by Rep. Bruce Vento (D-MN), proposes to reduce NSF research funding by $107 million to pay for FEMA's emergency food and shelter program. The more serious threat comes from an amendment to be offered by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) to cut NSF's research budget by $270 million. In floor remarks earlier in the week, Sanford listed a number of NSF-supported grants that he thought were of dubious value and called on the Foundation's budget to be cut accordingly. Among Sanford's examples was a $210,000 grant to study ATM's. Although Sanford clearly assumed that the grant was directed at automated teller machines, it turns out that the ATM in the title refers to Asynchronous Transfer Modes, a fundamental principle of high speed networking critical to transferring large amounts of data between laboratories. Geoscientists might make a mental note to keep acronyms out of their grant proposal titles!

VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Bill

National Science Foundation
The Senate passed the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies spending bill (S. 2168; S Rpt. 105-216) this morning while the House will resume debate on its version (H.R. 4194; H. Rpt. 105-610) this coming Tuesday. The bills provide funding for geoscience-related agencies NSF, EPA, and NASA. In both houses, funding for NSF is up over last year but does not reach the 10 percent increase to $3.773 billion proposed by the President. For NSF, the Senate recommends $3.644 billion and the House recommends $3.697 billion.

The Senate version recommends $2.725 billion for Research and Related Activities. During the House committee markup, Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Mark Neumann (R-WI) successfully offered an amendment to the House bill which adds an additional $70 million to NSF's research account, bringing the account total to $2.815 billion, by raising the limit for Federal Housing Administration loans. In good news for geoscientists, Frelinghuysen also had report language added that directs NSF to provide the full President's request for earth sciences, ocean sciences, and atmospheric sciences of $106 million, $230 million, and $170 million, respectively.

The Senate recommends funding the Major Research Equipment account at the President's request of $94 million and the House recommends slightly less, $90 million. For the second year in a row, both the House and Senate denied funds for the Polar Cap Observatory, a geophysical research facility that has come under fire from Alaskan senators over plans to locate it in the Canadian Arctic. House report language indicates a willingness to fund the project in the future, while Senate language does not leave any such doors open.

Environmental Protection Agency
Both houses provided approximately $7.4 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, $50 million more than provided last year but $380 million lower than the Administration request. Neither the House nor the Senate provided the Administration's increases for climate change initiatives or Superfund. In addition, both Houses adopted language prohibiting the use of funds for advocacy or implementation of the Kyoto treaty. In the Senate, the committee only approved $93 million of the $153 million increase requested for EPA's role in the President's Clean Water Acton Plan, about half of which is for additional nonpoint source grants. The House, however, fully funded the initiative.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The Senate bill recommends $13.6 billion for NASA, more than both the House recommendation of $13.3 and the President's request of $13.5 billion. The Senate version rearranges accounts regarding science, aeronautics and technology, recommending $4.257 billion for a new "Science and Technology" account, which contains funding for activities "associated with space science, Earth science, life and microgravity science, mission communications, and academic programs that were formerly funding in the SAT account." The Senate recommends $1.397 billion for Earth science activities, more than the Administration request of $1.372 million. Report language within that account supports initiatives such as commercial remote sensing, space-borne radar, oil and mineral exploration, and environmental research aircraft and sensor technology.

The House subcommittee recommends $5.541 billion for Science, Aeronautics, and Technology, $84 million above the President's request, but $148 million less than the FY98 appropriation. Increases were provided for space science, aeronautics and space transportation, and life and microgravity science. These increases are offset by a reduction of $59 million from earth science in uncosted carry-overs. The committee included language critical of these carryovers, which totaled $697 million this year. Carryovers were addressed during an earlier House Science Committee hearing, a summary of which is available on the AGI website at http://www.agiweb.org/hearings/nasa99.html.

Interior and Related Agencies Bill

The Interior and Related Agencies bill passed both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on June 25 (House: HR 4193/H Rpt 105-609; Senate: S.2237/S Rpt 105-227). The Administration has issued a veto threat for the bill as it currently exists in both houses. Both bills provide $13.4 billion for the Department of the Interior, $800 million below the President's request and $700 million less than FY98.

U.S. Geological Survey
In the House, the US Geological Survey would receive $774.84 million, less than the president's $807.23 million proposal but higher than FY98's total of $759.16. The House version allocates $235.6 million for the Geologic Division. Report language "directs the USGS to continue the National cooperative geologic mapping program ...at the 1998 level," restoring a massive cut in the Administration request. The report states that the committee agrees with the Administration's request for a Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN), but FEMA -- not the USGS -- should be the lead agency. The report continues: "The Committee believes that the Survey's highest hazards-related priority should be to continue to upgrade its various hazards monitoring networks to acquire quality hazards information. In this light, the Committee urges the Survey to refine its proposal for a real time hazards initiative. By March 31, 1999, the Survey should provide a comprehensive report to the Committee detailing the resource requirements for a Survey-wide real time hazards initiative." The House recommends $200.7 million for Water Resources Division (WRD), but does not provide any funds for parts of the Administration's Clean Water Action Plan that were to be funded out of WRD. The committee recommends $138.9 million for the National Mapping Division.

In the Senate, funding for the USGS would be $772.1 million, less than the House and Administration request. The Geologic Division is allocated $235.7 million, approximately $2 million more than the request. That increase includes $1.7 million for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program "in order to maintain level funding for the STATEMAP, EDMAP, and FEDMAP programs." Funding for both the earthquake hazards program of external cooperative agreements and the global seismic network are continued at the FY98 level, as proposed in the Administration budget. The committee recommends $197 million for WRD, $154 million for the Biological Resources Division, and $135.8 million go the National Mapping Division.

Department of Energy
Although most DOE programs are funded in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, several fall under the jurisdiction of the Interior subcommittee. Funding for energy programs includes: fossil energy (includes clean coal) $320 million; Strategic Petroleum Reserve, $160 million; and Energy Information Administration, $68 million. The Senate committee recommends $376 million for fossil energy R&D, including $116 million for coal research, $112 million for natural gas research, and $49 million for oil technology research.

Among the many riders to the Senate bill that have caused the Administration to threaten a veto, an amendment by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) places a moratorium on implementing the oil valuation rule proposed by the Department of the Interior until October 1 ,1999. Senator Hutchison had already prohibited implementation of the rule in this fiscal year through a rider in a supplemental spending bill. For more information, see the AGI update at http://www.agiweb.org/hearings/rik797.html.

Energy and Water Development Bill

The Senate passed the FY 1999 Energy and Water appropriations bill (S.2138; S. Rpt 105-206) by a 98-1 vote on June 18. The committee recommended $16.7 billion for the Department of Energy, substantially above last year's allocation of $15.84 billion but below the President's request of $17 billion. The Bureau of Reclamation would receive $861 million, $73 million less than the budget request but $32 million above FY98. The Senate bill provides the President's full request of $836.1 million for the Basic Energy Sciences program that includes basic research in the geosciences, $167.9 million more than in FY 1998. The bill provides all but $5 million of the Administration's request for DOE's high-level nuclear waste disposal program (principally the Yucca Mountain Project), funding it at $375 million. Reflecting the aggressively pro-nuclear stance of subcommittee chair Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), the DOE Nuclear Energy account fared well, receiving $280.7 million, compared with $243 million in FY98. Even in a Senate that has opposed many of the Administration's climate change initiatives, the committee approved the Administration's two nuclear programs proposed in the Climate Change Initiative- the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative ($24 million) and the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization ($10 million).

The House passed its version of the Energy and Water Development spending bill (H.R. 4060; H. Rpt. 105-581), on June 22 in a form very similar to that proposed by its Appropriations subcommittee. The House bill provides $16.2 billion for the Department of Energy ($305 more than FY98) and $762.8 million for the Bureau of Reclamation - - both of which are below the Administration's request and the Senate appropriation. The bill provides $779.1 million for the Basic Energy Sciences program, an amount $110.9 million more than in FY 1998 but $57.0 million less than the President's request and the Senate level. Funding for high-level nuclear waste disposal is set at $350.0 million, the same as in FY 1998 but $30 million less than the request. The House bill does not share the Senate's support for nuclear energy, denying funding for one the President's proposed climate change projects, the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization, and only providing $5 million of a requested $24 million for the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative. Overall, the bill cuts the nuclear energy budget by $15.3 million below the FY 1998 allocation to $227.8 million. The committee only provided half of the $27 million requested by DOE's Office of Energy Research for the President's Climate Change Technology Initiative.


Sources: Library of Congress, Energy & Environment Weekly Bulletin, National Science Foundation)

Contributed by Kasey Shewey and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Posted July 18, 1998


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